There have only been a couple of occasions since I started this blog where I knew, even before I’d started a post, that what I was about to write would be really out of kilter with what the vast majority of those about to read it would think.
Make that three…
As I made my way out of the ground yesterday, I did so feeling pretty happy, happier still when I got home and saw the other National One results.
Relieved, too, but certainly happy.
I’d just spent and afternoon watching a hugely entertaining game in which I’d seen 88 points scored, at over a point a minute, including 12 tries. Cov had won their eleventh home game out of twelve this season, and in so doing scored 50 points for the fifth time, in the process becoming the second highest points scorers in the league.
And what’s more, we’d moved up to sixth, with Rosslyn Park in fifth still to come to the Butts…
…all that and Moseley losing, too.
Certainly nothing to get too wound up about.
It wasn’t a great Coventry performance by any means and one in which we were, to a certain extent, victims of our desire to play attractive, running rugby…perhaps not victims, given that we won, but we were certainly almost undone by being too cavalier at times.
Eleven minutes gone, 4 tries and a bonus point to the good and we looked world-beaters, or at last National One-beaters.
And then a yellow card, some complacency and a Hull side that grew in confidence once we had shown them we were fallible.
Suddenly, seemingly from nowhere, it was game on.
In the remaining 70 minutes of rugby, we struggled to recapture the form we showed early on, failed in fact, and we were made to work hard until Plan B was put into practice.
And there was a Plan B for me.
The bench was packed with 5 players all of whom would arguably have started in our strongest side, all impact players at that – I thought that worked well, to be honest.
Litchfield and Price on for Boulton and Tolmie and suddenly the scrum that had creaked at times looked solid, Stokes and Fenner for Hodgson and Maisey and the cutting edge in the backs returned and Tuilagi for Daynes to give some more solidity in the loose in particular.
And, lest I forget elsewhere, a big well done to Will Maisey for scoring his 150th point this season.
Yes, there were far, far too many handling errors. Cov tried to over-complicate their play at times, struggling to defend when attacked in open play and finding Hull’s pack a handful when they started to rumble.
And, clearly, our players had a somewhat different view of what was happening on the pitch to that of the referee at times.
Yes, it was all a bit frustrating…but hugely entertaining to watch.
And we won.
Eleven times at home this season.
Hardly a crisis.
7 games still to play and we’ve already won as many games as we did in the whole of last season, scored 124 more points and are three places in advance of where we finished. Okay, we’ve already conceded 66 more points, but I’ll take that given the obvious progress elsewhere.
Of course, had we played like that against Plymouth or Blackheath or Moseley then we would have been beaten.
But we didn’t…
…and we’ve beaten them all at home. And with Blackheath and Ampthill still to come.
We chose a different game plan for Hull and it paid off…just.
Too close for comfort, far too close…and I’m sure there will be some strong messages delivered by the coaches when they meet up with the team again tomorrow. I totally accept that in the final 25 minutes of that first half we looked anything but winners and there was clearly a lack of leadership out there…
But for weeks now that’s what the coaches have been identifying as a problem, and we have seen how it is being addressed for next season through the recruitment of the likes of Preece and Grove – so it’s not as if, long term, there aren’t plans C, D down to J or K already in progress.
And what of Hull Ionians…written off elsewhere as dreadful and with little ability? I thought that was a bit harsh, they were much better than that, once they saw Coventry’s defences start crack open. One or two of their players caught the eye and certainly their fly half looked threatening whenever he had the ball in hand, as did their wings.
And boy did they have heart…to come back as they did showed real ambition and whilst they profited from some profligate rugby on our part, there was a fair bit of skill there too, on occasions.
I do think they deserve great credit for their comeback, rather than it just being seen as a woeful display by Coventry. Had it not been for some tremendous last ditch tackling from the likes of Trimble and Howe, Hull could have certainly got something from the game – and who would have denied them that, in all honesty?
I’d much rather see a team prepared to take the game to the opposition in the way Hull did yesterday stay up, than one or two of the others down at the wrong end of the table that haven’t come to the Butts with anything like the same fight or resolve.
Fair play to them and I genuinely wish them well for the remainder of the season.
So, given all this, I was surprised when I saw some of the comments on the Messageboard…and maybe I have to accept that I’ve just totally misread the Coventry performance …
…it wasn’t great, but in a league where, other than Hartpury, any team is capable of beating any other on the day, we played exceptional rugby for the first 10 minutes, had a massive wobble to allow back some of the old failings, but then had enough strength in depth to turn it around and secure the win.
I certainly didn’t think it was a dreadful performance – dreadful was Esher and Blackheath before Christmas…beaten and beaten well, with no real fight.
There was certainly a bit of character in there yesterday….there had to be, otherwise we wouldn’t have come back once Hull had got their noses in from at 28-31.
To write Cov off yesterday would be to take something away from the performances of Pete White, Tom Poole, Olly Povoas, Heath Stevens, Will Maisey and others…I thought there were definitely some players out there who wanted to make a point or two – Max Trimble looked sharper than he has since his return, Tom Jubb certainly got stuck in and Darrell Dyer hit the defenders hard, time and time again.
Defensively….well, that was a different story and it was a step backwards for me, but it is a work in progress and I don’t think we would have been quite as generous had we been playing a top 6 team.
Above all, though, we were all forewarned right at the start of the season by Rowland Winter that there would be games like yesterday. In his first meeting with the supporters he outlined his attack-minded philosophy and said that as long as we ended up outscoring the opposition by the end of the game, he would be happy. Defensively it wouldn’t always be pretty (he even wished James Pritchard good luck in his role as defence coach).
At the time we all nodded in agreement, excited by the prospect of a style of rugby that promised to bring some entertainment back to the Butts that had been seriously lacking in the previous 18 months once the extended run had come to an end.
Certainly as far as yesterday was concerned, he was true to his word.
So in none of these close games that we’ve enjoyed at the Butts this season…okay, that I’ve enjoyed this season…have I been unduly worried. For me, a win is a win and if we keep on winning, even with the odd poorer performance, that will do for me. It’s not as if we are as vulnerable as we were at times against Hull every weekend.
Good teams will win with indifferent performances sometimes; it’s often what sets them apart from the others. This is still early days and we are winning games that we would have lost 12 months ago, we’re scoring more points, playing more attractive rugby and the crowds are starting to return.
The positives are there, as are one or two negatives that for some outweigh all else.
No target was set regarding our final position in the league, either by Jon Sharp or the coaches….and what a wise move that was. This season was to be about laying the foundations for future success…this isn’t the squad that will take us up, was never intended to be, but it does contain players who will be there when it happens.
If the recruitment is as effective as it sounds like it will be (and the early signs are good), then next season will be another step up…
…and so it builds.
As games go, it wasn’t a great Cov performance by any manner of means; not even good….but there were moments when you could see what it is the coaches want to achieve and it was almost as if, in those opening 10 minutes, Coventry almost shocked themselves. It was all too easy, we played some sublime attacking rugby and Hull were powerless in its wake…and then we got over-confident, a little complacent and reality kicked in.
Perhaps it’s the ex-teacher in me, always looking for the positives on which to build – but that opening blitz showed everyone what Cov can do if they get it right. Maintain that level and we have something special on our hands.
It encapsulated exactly what the coaches are trying to bring to Cov.
There’s your starting point…and then you look at the problems.
What went well…
Even better if…
Assessment of learning.
I apologise to those who have read through this and got increasingly hot under the collar in doing so…mine is just a different way of seeing the same game. It doesn’t make it the right way, but nor does it make it the wrong way.
For me, what we’re seeing this season is such a relief from the disappointments of last year…perhaps my expectations just aren’t as high as some others.
I go to the Butts to watch Coventry win and to be entertained – the two are interchangeable for me. There are Saturdays when we’ve lost, yet I’ve been hugely entertained. Hartpury, for instance….and that’s the only loss all season.
Yesterday, I got both the 5 points and was entertained…a win/win.
I’ve put on the helmet and stuck my head over the parapet – now it’s just a question of waiting for the flak…
If you haven’t already voted for Cov’s ‘Man of the Match’ v Hull Ionians, and would like to do so, please see below: